Social media has come a long way since it originated with Six Degrees (1997), Friendster (2002) and MySpace (2003). Sites like Facebook and Twitter are no longer considered to be passing trends but a part of our culture deeply woven into society. They’re not just used for self-expression or to stay in touch with high school friends, college pals, and distant relatives. Now they’re used for organizing events, job hunting, shopping, researching, marketing, branding, and providing customer support. Buffer is a software that fully understands how social media is moving and the direction it’s taking.
What is Buffer?
If you don’t already use Buffer for business, you’ve probably come across it before. One of the most widely acclaimed alternatives to social media management giant HootSuite, it serves as a way for individuals, businesses and marketing agencies to manage multiple social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+) at once from one convenient dashboard and to schedule social media updates to be posted in advance. It has almost 3 million registered users, including About.com, Fortune Magazine and Business Insider. It’s praised for its easy-of-use style and simplistic appearance.
Buffer also includes a robust set of analytical tools, suggestions for what material to post, recommendations for when to post, and the ability to design your own image-based content through a service called Pablo. Buffer includes free, paid, and business versions at small, medium and large tiers so you can choose the plan that best fits with your needs.
As of January 2016, it will offer an additional feature: the announcement was made this past December that Buffer had acquired the brand management application, Respond.ly.
What Is Respond.ly?
There’s a good chance that if you’ve heard of Buffer, you’ve heard of Respond.ly too. Respond.ly frequently topped the charts for being a well-liked, but very different kind of social media application.
Dealing solely with Twitter, it doesn’t offer management or scheduling like so many of its competitors. Instead, it’s geared more for businesses that want to provide support on Twitter quickly and efficiently, and to monitor what others are saying about their brand.
If you’ve ever spent time working at a call center, think of Respond.ly as a way for you to turn your Twitter mentions, hashtags and selected keywords into a queue of customer service tickets. You can divide them amongst members of a team to be dealt with individually, and then file them away into an archived folder so they’re not clogging up your inbox. You can also set reminders to remind your team to follow up on certain issues. Because you can choose which hashtags and keywords to monitor, the application is a great way to keep track of your competition as well. Like Buffer, Respond.ly is easy to use and adaptable for individuals and businesses.
Up until its acquisition, Respond.ly had been trusted by many different organizations that included WordPress, Slack, Disqus, and Stripe; however, despite being a solid product, few account holders were willing to pay for its premium version and the company suspected the service might have more potential and greater success when paired with something else.
What Does This Acquisition Mean?
The most obvious change that Buffer will be making to Respond.ly is in its name. From now on the application will be a service simply known as Respond.
If you were already using Respond.ly you may not notice many changes at all. As the Buffer CEO, Joe Gascoigne, explains in a blog article, Respond.ly was a strong product on its own and because it already offered the same simplistic look and feel that Buffer strives to provide with its products, it fit well with their philosophy as is.
Former Respond.ly users and current Buffer account holders may be glad to learn that while both services can be used together, neither will impose complications for the other. The social media management and scheduling services offered by Buffer will remain completely separate from the support and brand monitoring services offered through Respond. Like Pablo, Respond will have a lot of its own look and feel while being integrated inside a larger platform.
As mentioned in Gascoigne’s post, the decision to keep these two services completely separate from one another is due to the size of social media and the broad scope of how it’s used today. Social media management tools that try to be anything and everything at once can be complicated to learn and cumbersome to use. They tend to include lots of features you want, but also lots of features you don’t need, and many of which are spread too thin to properly do the service justice. Buffer is bringing in Respond.ly in such a way that users can benefit from two really good products that just happen to be united under a single platform.
Buffer is expected to launch Respond sometime this month, but if you want to get a sneak peek, you can still sign up to test the beta version. Those interested will be placed on a waiting list until there’s availability.
What Does This Do For Your Business?
Buffer splitting apart its social media services into two distinct categories is going to set a precedent for its competitors, while potentially changing the way companies view their social media strategy. Instead of lumping everything businesses are capable of doing with social media as “social media management,” it forces companies to think about their plan of action differently in a way that includes marketing on one side, and brand management and customer service on another.
Because Buffer is offering a broader range of quality features in a way that’s easy for anyone to use, it may now be a better choice for your company’s social media than some of the other social media management tools. Those who were already using Buffer will benefit from the additional feature that allows them to serve their Twitter customers better while closely monitoring their brand.